Obama urges ‘course correction’ on globalization
ATHENSGlobalization has brought many economic benefits to the world but needs a “course correction” to address growing inequality, U.S. President Barack Obama said Nov. 16 on his European farewell tour.
Obama spoke during a visit originally planned as a valedictory lap, but which has become focused on reassuring jittery allies after the shock election victory by Donald Trump, a staunch critic of free trade agreements.
“The global path of globalization demands a course correction,” Obama said in an eagerly-awaited speech in Athens, before continuing his journey to Berlin.
“When we see people, global elites, wealthy corporations seemingly living by a different set of rules, avoiding taxes, manipulating loopholes... this feeds a profound sense of injustice,” he added.
During the trip, the outgoing president has repeatedly referred to the anger that lately brought success to populist movements in Europe and the United States, such as the Brexit referendum and Trump’s shock victory last week.
In comments on Nov. 15, Obama cautioned the world must guard against “a rise in a crude sort of nationalism or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’
European governments, especially eastern countries close to Russia’s orbit, have been shaken after Trump appeared to call into question Washington’s near 70-year security guarantee by saying he would only help NATO allies if they paid their way.
Trump welcomed Britain’s shock vote in June to leave the European Union (EU) and has been a critic of global free trade agreements.
However, Obama was at pains to stress that Europe - and NATO - would remain the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.
The U.S.-led NATO grouping is “absolutely vital” to U.S. interests and a strong, unified Europe was good for America and the world, Obama said in comments aimed at reassuring old partners.
“We know what happens when Europeans start dividing themselves up... the 20th century was a bloodbath,” he said pointedly on Nov. 15.
Following his speech, the president will head to Germany to visit Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he has described as “probably... my closest international partner these last eight years.”
During his time in Berlin, he will also huddle with the leaders of Britain, France and Italy, as Europe desperately seeks clues to future U.S. policy in a Trump world.
While Obama has generally been welcomed in Greece, there were some who came out onto the streets in protest.
Around 2,500 people brandishing banners denouncing U.S. “imperialism” and calling Obama a “persona non grata” were turned away on Nov. 15 as they tried to breach barriers and reach the city center, with police firing tear gas and stun grenades.